Top: Bridge-to-Bridge Phase 1 pre-restoration photo looking upstream towards pedestrian bridge. Bottom: Post-restoration looking upstream towards pedestrian bridge.
Over the past few years, the HFF South Fork Initiative has collaborated with state and federal agencies and local landowners on an effort to restore lower Rainey Creek, and improve habitat for native species like Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT). The South Fork Snake River is home to the largest population of native YCT in Idaho and tributaries of the South Fork provide critical spawning and rearing habitat. While Rainey Creek is the largest South Fork tributary, of the four major tributaries, it is the least productive for YCT.
From December 2020 - January 2021, the collaborative group implemented Phase 1 “Bridge-to-Bridge”, a 0.3- mile restoration along Rainey Creek. Located about 2.5 miles upstream from the confluence of Rainey Creek and the South Fork, the Phase 1 project aimed to restore natural stream function by restructuring 1,390 feet of stream channel to increase water velocity, habitat complexity, stream cover, and reduce fine sediments in the substrate. During construction, shallow channels were narrowed, fine sediment was removed from the streambed, gravels and cobbles were introduced, and the restructured reach incorporated deep pools, spawning-pool tail outs, riffles, and glides. Additionally, large woody debris and riparian vegetation were placed and planted throughout reach to provide cover and decrease solar loading.
The group, led by the Forest Service, also conducted restoration work on 1,840 feet of Rainey Creek one mile upstream of the Phase 1 project. In-stream work was completed in April 2021 and construction of riparian fence on one side of the creek was completed in May to keep Forest Service horses out of the creek. Significant volunteer support was provided by the Trout Unlimited Snake River Cutthroats.
The rest of the year, the collaborative group plans to implement three additional projects along lower Rainey Creek for an added 0.7 miles of restored habitat.
This work is truly a collaborative effort between the South Fork Initiative, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the other project partners and supporters including, Jackson Hole One - Fly, Patagonia, Anheuser-Busch, Rivernetwork.org, Caterpillar, Jackson Hole Fly Fishing Film Tour, WorldCast Anglers, Trout and Salmon Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wild Waters Restoration, TU - Snake River Cutthroats, our supporters, and numerous volunteers. Follow us on social media for updates on these and other restoration efforts.
Learn more about the South Fork Initiative here.